Category Archives: Jim Bridger Wilderness

Notes From February 2017

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Another Selfie, Keystone, Colorado, Feb 2016

Getting ready for my annual ski trip to Keystone at the end of this month.  This has become an annual tradition for me.  I have a friend meeting me in Denver so we’ll be able to split the costs of the condo.

Staying at a Keystone property means you can just walk outside and catch the shuttle bus, which runs about every 20 minutes, and get dropped off very close to the lifts.  Skiing during the week means no crowds, which means you can do a lot of skiing.  So much so that my legs tend to start wobbling about mid-day on day two.  To try and help this, I try to do squats to work on my quads, but man, I can sure tell that I’m getting older!  After I do the squats my knees get sore even though I try to maintain good form.  Oh well, just need to try to not over do it.  I’m going to enjoy skiing, not to compete.

I may go it alone next year.  This is another case of me starting to resent always doing all the planning if I want to do something.  I make the room reservation, I make the car reservation, the guy I’ve gone with the past several years has never once taken the initiative to do any of that nor has he ever even offered to drive!  What I get out of it is somebody to share the costs and to possibly drive back to Denver if I break my leg.  I should be charging a sur-tax or fee for planning.

If you show up at the window in Keystone to buy a lift ticket, it will be $136 per day.  However, and it’s a huge however, you can buy a season pass for $300!  Which makes the daily rate for my trip $60 per day, an excellent deal!

 

Going backpacking this weekend on the AT here is Virginia.  Doing a hike called Three Ridges.  I’m using my new pack I bought this fall, an Osprey Exos 58.  This pack is an upgrade to the Exos 58

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Old Pack, on an old guy (Bridger Wilderness, Wy August 2016)

I’ve had for a few years but felt I need to replace.

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New pack, (I know, hard to see) Tinker Cliffs, Va, Nov 2016

The problem that bugged me to no end was that in order to save weight, they made the hip straps very narrow/thin and they would slowly but surely slip and come loose while I walked.  The pack straps where also pretty thin so any load approaching 35lbs was tough on the shoulders.  Anyway, this new model corrects that, but when I was in the VA Beach REI I was assured that a medium was my size (I had been using a large frame), the pack feels good and snug, but the shoulder straps barely come over my shoulders, so I’m going to try on a large when I head back to REI this week.

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Better view of new pack, Three Ridges Maupin Shelter, AT, Virginia, Dec 2016

I’m going back to REI to return some trail runners I had to get on-line because they weren’t available in the store. I want to replace the Hoka one one Mafate 4 shoes I wore on the JMT last year with the next size down.

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Marie Lake, JMT July 2016

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Hoka One One, Mafate 4, trail runners

Well, wouldn’t you know it, they don’t carry those anymore so I had to try some of the other Hoka’s and other brands designed specifically for rough trail or off trail.  None of the others had the cushioning of the Mafate 4, but I was able to snag a pair on Amazon, tried them last night and they seem to be perfect.  The cushioning on the Hoka’s is fantastic!

I’m testing a new stove burner/pot combination.  I found a burner that weighs about 2 ounces and a cup that holds 2 cups (ha), that together weigh about 4 ounces.  I’m using the cup as the pot, eliminating a pot.  Done it twice, seems to work nice.  Saves about 15 ounces dropping my fantastic jet boil and now superfluous cup.  Not sure about the durability of the burner, but will find out this spring/early summer as I prep camp for the JMT in August.

I froze my ass off in my feathered friends 20 bag 2 weeks ago on the Tar Jacket Ridge abortive hike.  I tried to use the bag as a quilt, the bag has continuous baffles and allows you to spread the down across the bag to do this.  However, I didn’t do the math.  Spreading the down across both the top and bottom of the bag for a quilt, decreased the loft by half, increasing (decreasing) the comfort rating from 20 (which really means 35 normally) to probably 30-35F (which means 40).  Well it dropped down to 18F and I was really uncomfortable.  I did test out an Sea to Summit Thermolite Reactor Extreme Mummy Bag Liner, which did help some.  The other problem I had and learned about, was about the use of a quilt in very cold temps.  With the quilt, I found that it’s very hard to keep it snug around you and if you don’t, the cold air gets in and prevents a warm air layer from forming.  By the time I gave up on the quilt idea and got into and zipped up the bag, I neglected to shake all the down back to the top side of the bag..oh well.

Going to try again this weekend.  This time I’ll make sure to keep the loft on top, but as insurance I’m bringing my 30 quilt to use as a top layer, just in case.  Temps are only expected to drop to about 32 anyway, not so bad.

JMT planning for August 2107 is going great.  I have a hiking companion for the first 14 days…excellent!  Will report on the plan later.

 

 

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Backpacking Bridger Wilderness, Wind River Range, August 2016

Gunny drove down and stayed at my house on Thursday.  On Friday we got up at 3am and drove to the Patrick Henry airport in Hampton. (yawn)

To view all the photos, click here.

Going through TSA, the feds found a zip lock full of bullets Gunny had forgotten about in his camera bag – SURPRISE!, and called the police, YIKES!

No problem, but they made a fuss, and kept the bullets and let us (him) go on the trip, WHEW!!

In Charlotte we met up with Biscuit, Jai, and Mike and flew together on to Denver.  Mike rented the car and we were off to Pinedale, arriving about 6pm, where we all checked into the Hampton Inn.

About 7pm we met up with the rest of the gang, minus Bob, Cathlyn, and Zack and had beers at the Wind Rivers Brewery. DSC03544

On Saturday morning we met up with the others for breakfast, then headed off to the only outfitters in town for last minute stuff.

Then we visited the Museum of the Mountain Man.  After that we drove up to the Elkhardt Trail Head (@9500′) for acclimatization.  We took a hike to a scenic overlook called Sacred Ridge and took lots of photos.

 

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We then drove back to Pinedale (@7100′), stopping at the grocery store/hardware store/liquor store for more supplies and booze and fishing licenses.

We all met up again for dinner at the brewery for a last minute planning and pre-trip trip feast!

Sunday were off to the trailhead and hiked to Upper Sweeny Lake.

Monday we hiked to Lost Lake.  The trail was sort of sketchy and we got pretty stretched out with those in the back having some trouble finding the path.  We all made it down to the lake, but a few were pretty pissed off that those in front hadn’t waited at spots where the trail was hard to find so we had a tribunal to discuss leaving cairns to make the turns or someone just waiting around for those coming from behind.  After that was sorted out, we didn’t have any route issues for the rest of the trip.

On Monday night, I scouted out the un-maintained trail for Tuesday and couldn’t find it, leaving me a bit worried that night.  In my tent I realized we were looking for the trail in the wrong place, so Tuesday, after the water crossing we used the map apps to locate the real trail (whew!) and after that had no route finding problems.

On Tuesday the trail up to the ‘big water slide’  and Fremont Crossing was pretty rugged and slow going, as was what I’ll call ‘Fremont Basin’ up and over to the plateau leading to Lower Jean Lake.

Our large group was going pretty slow, so we decided to go head and camp at Lower Jean Lake, but it turned out to be a fantastic camp site with tremendous views and outstanding fishing.

Bob caught a fish EVERY SINGLE TIME he cast his line!  He had found THE SPOT.  When he got tired, he handed is pole to Cathlyn, who then proceeded to catch a fish every time she cast!  DAMN!

But this was all after dinner, so it was catch and release.

Wednesday we hiked up to and past Island Lake, to an unnamed lake at 10,467, where we forded a creek and found another fantastic camp site.

We camped there both Wednesday and Thursday, fished and day hiked all around, the highlight being a hike to Titcomb Basin.

We experienced a few short thunder showers almost every day.  The storms would roll in, the temperatures would drop, getting pretty cold sometimes, then the storm would pass, sometimes rain, sometimes not, then the sun would come back out.

Thursday evening the rains came in about dinner time, forcing dinners in the tents.  This time the rain lasted until about 8pm.  The rain returned about 9 and it rained until about midnight so we had to pack up wet tents on Friday.

On Friday we were hiking towards Middle Sweeny Lake and making very good time, so we all decided to go ahead and hike the final 6 miles to the trail head and call it a trip.  It was a long day, about 13 miles or so.

On the last leg of the hike in, we got a combination of rain, hail, and sleet to cap off the trip.  And, wouldn’t you know it, as we neared the trail head, the sun came out, drying everyone out and allowing lots of photos and high-fives as each of us entered the parking area!

We drove back down to Pinedale, managed to get rooms in the Hampton Inn, and a had fantastic post trip feast at the Brewery.

Saturday morning we all met at the Wrangler Diner (thanks Happy (Anna)!) for another giant feast.

What a great end to a fantastic trip!

Backpacking the Sky Pilot Loop, Bridger Wilderness August 2014

Sky Pilot Loop, Jim Bridger Wilderness, Wind River Range, Pinedale, Wy

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23-29 August 2014.

Phil, Gunny, Buff, Pyro, Biscuit

Click here to see my favorite pix from this trip.

“Let me explain, no, there is too much, let me sum up” (Inigo Montoya)

Another great trip to the “Winds”. Very long drive. Cold wet weather. Great photos. Took longer to acclimatize to the altitude.

So, let’s get started.

Buff and Pyro drove up from VA Beach and met me at my house in Hampton on Wednesday 20 August. We then drove up to Verona, VA to Gunny’s new house where we stayed for the night. Gunny and Nancy were perfect hosts preparing fresh chicken enchiladas and salsa and supplying us with plenty of iced cold craft beers!

We then sat around in Gunny’s study and watched him finish packing getting to bed around 10 or 11. Which isn’t anything to talk about until I tell you wake up was planned for 3a.m. with departure set for 3:30 yikes! But, happily, but not much, since we were already in Northern VA, we moved back departure to around 4 a.m.

So there we were at 4 a.m. pulling out of Verona and heading to St Louis, Mo our destination for day 1 (day 2?).

From St Louis (departing at 0330 hrs) we were off to Cheyenne. Going through St Louis and then Kansas City at this time of day is a piece of cake, if you can keep awake! Fortunately our plan of switching drivers every 2 hours worked out very well.

We got to Cheyenne, in the rain, around 1900hrs. We could tell we were at higher altitude already (6000′) as we huffed and puffed just going up stairs to our rooms.

Saturday, 23 August.

We departed Cheyenne again at 0330 hrs arriving in Pinedale, Wy around 1000 hrs, later than planned due to quite a bit of highway construction.

We linked up with Biscuit at the outfitters in Pinedale then grabbed some early lunch at the micro-brew next door to the outfitters.

We then dropped into the outfitters for last minute supplies and fishing licenses. It was getting ready to rain and getting cold, like it wanted to snow, so Buff decided on purchasing some more layering.

It was then off to the trail head, but not before a detour into the grocery/hardware store and a stop into the Museum Of The Mountain Man. This is great museum and I highly recommend it if you ever make it to Pinedale.

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It started to drizzle slightly on the way to Elkhart Trail Head. It was cloudy and dreary and there were remnants of an earlier snowfall in the trees. When we were able to make out distant peaks through the clouds you could clearly see the snow cover at the upper elevations. Temps were in the upper 40’s to lower 50’s at this point.

We got the parking lot about 1400 hrs and were headed down the trail by around 1500 hrs. The sun was trying to peak thru the clouds, which helped our morale quite a bit.

The trail down to Long Lake was maintained and in pretty good shape. We arrived on the shores of the lake about 1700 hrs.

We found a super campsite and since we had dropped down about 1800′ it had warmed up a bit. We got the tents up and Pyro and Gunny got a good fire going in spite of the very wet conditions from the day prior’s rains.

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Sunday, 24 August.

After breakfast and photos on the beautiful shores of Long Lake we started walking at 0930hrs.

At this point I had started to get an ass kicking cold, sore throat, headache, dripping sinus, not fun. To add to my fun, the grass/vegetation around the trail was sopping wet and the water proofing of my normally reliable boots immediately failed soaking my left sock, great.

This year, in order to complete the Sky Pilot Loop we needed to drop down almost 2000′ from the trail head, to Long Lake and then back up to Glimpse Lake where the rest of the trip would be more or less between 10,600′ and 11,060′.

Well, the trip up to Glimpse Lake was harder than we hoped, a 2000′ climb over 4 miles, The trail wasn’t too bad, but adjusting to the altitude was a bitch. The altitude was affecting everyone differently. We didn’t arrive until about 1530 hrs. To be fair, we walked really slow, stopped for quite a few breaks, and took a ton of photos. A long day for such a short walk.

Once at Glimpse, we had the pick of several great campsites. Pyro and Gunny once again got a great fire going under very damp circumstances. Gunny, ever the fisherman, found some reserve strength and went fishing for a little while.

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Monday, 25 August.

We departed Glimpse Lake around 0900 hrs headed for that day’s goal of Summit Lake. The going was still pretty slow as we were still not acclimatized and at 1500 hrs we had only reached Borum Lake. We were all dragging, Borum was beautiful, so we decided to camp. I was only too happy not to continue the 1.6 short miles to Summit Lake for several reasons, I still had my sore throat and was still feeling weak, and, Summit lake is above the tree line so there’s no campfire there. Borum turned out to be a very beautiful place to camp indeed! We had 2 short thunder/rain storms which negated a campfire and I was so tired I sacked out early, eating only snacks in my tent.

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The next morning was clear skies and beautiful. We had terrific reflections on the still lake waters.

Tuesday, 26 August.

I’m feeling better, but still not much of an appetite.

We depart Borum Lake about 0900 hrs. headed for Upper Jean Lake, arriving about 1630 hrs. This is our best day so far, clearing skies, a bit warmer, above tree line.

We hike on past Summit Lake, cross the bridge on upper Pine Creek, over to Elbow Creek to Pass Lake and Twins Lakes following the creek above tree line, in a moonscape environment, past countless stream crossings and unnamed small lakes/tarns. We spot the tip of Elbow Lake in the distance. As we get closer, the Lake is enormous and the walk around it very long. We’re on the Highline trail headed for the junction of Shannon Pass Trail, where we’ll turn south, go over our high point at 11,060′ and drop on down to Upper Jean Lake.

We arrive at Upper Jean Lake around 1630 hrs and go on with the business of setting up tents before any rains can move in, get water for filtering, getting stuff unpacked so it can air out/dry out/fluff out, getting ready for another night in the 30’s.

No trees so no campfire. Gunny goes fishing. My appetite is getting better, but I have trouble finishing my one hot meal.

When you’re above tree line and in mixed company, going to do your ‘business’ can be a little tricky. A small ridge behind out tents along with some huge boulders provided a small bit of privacy. The obvious little piles of rocks meant to conceal made me coin the term for the area “monument valley.”

This area was the only area on the entire trip where we were bothered by mosquitoes and used head-nets. Except for Gunny, who had some repellent in this clothing, which also, I guess, deterred the critters from bothering his exposed face.

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Wednesday, 27 August.

We depart Upper Jean Lake around 0915 hrs headed for Freemont (Creek) Crossing, then down an un-maintained trail to the big “Water Slide”, then off to Lost Lake.

After a short lunch at the “water slide”, we decide to bushwhack, more or less, from the water slide, follow “game” trails down to Lost Lake, like we did last year.

Gunny leads on following very feint trails, but after about 20 minutes the trail disappears so we have to thrash about a bit to find what we hope is the trail from last year. Well, after several dead ends over cliff tops or around impassible corners, I resort to the GPS. The “trail” we’re looking for is not on the map, of course, so we are left to head in a generalized direction over contours that we hope aren’t cliffs. After a few more false leads we miraculously find the path and finally meet the primary trail at the series of two fords where Freemont Creek pours into Lost Lake.

It starts to rain. Nothing to do but take off our boots and march across the series of fords. As luck would have it, the fabulous and only campsite is taken so we’re forced to set up in a series of clearings just off the trail.

So in the rain we set up tents, get water, hang bear bags, etc.. Pyro tries to get a fire going and succeeds for a bit. Gunny goes fishing and brings back 4 or 5 good sized trout. He’s had wade out into the area where Freemont Creek enters the lake and fish in the intermittent drizzle and fog.

Nevertheless, due to the constant drizzle, they can’t get enough fire and coals to cook the fish. I retired to dinner in my tent to avoid a slow soak.

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Thursday, 28 August.

The morning is glorious and clear. Lots of sunshine. However, due to the mountains surrounding the lake, the sun can’t quite reach our tents to dry them off before it’s time to leave. So yet another day of packing wet tents, oh well, no problem, the sun is glorious! My cold is finally gone.

We depart between 0900 and 1000 hrs and have a good walk up to Seneca Lake for a nice lunch in the sun. We arrive at Barbara Lake, I think about 1500 hrs. I discover the top of my fishing pole has slid out of my pack, oh well. We set up and Gunny goes fishing but doesn’t have much luck. Pyro makes the fire and we do our set-up chores and hang bear bags, which is very tricky with these lodge-pole pines and their short branches.

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Friday, 29 August.

My tent is on a sort of angled hump and I wake with little bit of a back ache which loosens up when we start walking.

We depart about 0900 arriving a short time later at Photographer’s Point for the obligatory scenic photos. A man with 4 or 5 very little girls is camped right on the point in the area people go for photos. I’m sure this isn’t allowed. Very bad manners to camp there.

We arrive back at the trail head around noon, hiking all day under very blue skies and warmer temps. My back starts to tighten up again and stays tight for the next 4 or 5 days.

We head on down the micro brewery for our traditional after hike feast. After a few short stops to look for souveniers, Pyro, Buff, Gunny and I are back in the truck around 1400 hrs and headed for Cheyenne.  Biscuit heads on back to Jackson Hole to catch his flight to Salt Lake City then on back to VA.

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Sunday Morning, Waiting For the Winds To Blow

Sitting here on a Sunday morning, drinking coffee, checking the weather in Pinedale, Wy for what seems like the ten-thousandth time.

In just three days Gunny, Buff, Pyro and myself will get in my truck and start the 2.5 day trip to Pinedale.  Biscuit, the smart one, is flying up to Jackson (Hole), Wy and driving down to meet us Saturday around noon in Pinedale.

The current plan is to meet Biscuit at noon at the brew pub next door to Pinedale’s primary outfitter.  In no particular order, we’ll eat, drink some beer, check gear, purchase some more stuff for our packs.  Get some fishing licenses, check lures and try to avoid adding more weight to packs already loaded with 6 days of breakfasts and dinners.

But first, back here in good ole Hampton, Va….Buff and Pyro will drive up from the Beach to my place, then we’ll all go together in my truck up to Verona, Va where we’ll stay overnight at Gunny’s new place.  Gunny has promised us fresh salsa and chicken enchiladas – YES!

Next morning we’ll leave Verona and head off towards an overnight in St Louis.  Should be about 14hrs of driving.

From St Louis, it’s off to Cheyenne, Wy, where we’ll overnight on the historic Warren AFB.

(Warren AFB is the oldest continuously active military installation within the Air Force, established in 1867 by the United States Army as Fort David Allen Russell. The facility came under United States Army Air Forces control on 1 June 1947, and United States Air Force (USAF) respectively on 18 September 1947 until now….Wikipedia).

Gunny and I stayed there on our way to the Winds last year.  The old part of the base is like going back in time.  We had a suite in a preserved barracks, which meant no AC, but luckily the elevation in Cheyenne meant cool nights, so we didn’t suffer.  I did note that the check in for the base lodging was also in an historic building, and they had AC, hmmm.

Anyway, we should be leaving Cheyenne about 3:30 a.m. and get to Pinedale around 9 or so.

So after linking up with Biscuit and doing whatever chores still need doing, we may hit the “museum of the mountain man”, an excellent museum if you ever make to Pinedale.

There shouldn’t be a lot of chores, we’ve been planning this hike ever since last years hike there ended and we’re carrying our packs in the truck, not like we’re putting them on a plane.   But we’ll still probably stop at the big grocery store on the main road leading to the Elkhart trail head.

I’ve got some pre-cooked pork sausage links in my garage fridge right now, so if I can’t keep them chilled on the drive up, I might just get some more in Pinedale, still need to figure that part out.

So, once we’ve sorted out our chores in Pinedale, we’ll head off to the trail head (~9300′ elev).  The plan is to park and go ahead and hike the 3 or so miles down the Pine Creek Canyon trail and camp some where below Long Lake and Freemont Creek (~ 7858′ elev).

That plan gives us a head start on the next days hump up back to the top of the “plateau” and Glimpse Lake (9373′ elev) and onto however far we can get that day.  It would be nice to reach Summit Lake, but I don’t think we’ll make it that far.

Ok, that’s the plan so far, time to check the weather!